MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
I have known more than a few people who are impassioned about the Palestinian people but find themselves at a loss to communicate the pain and the deprivation suffered since the founding of the Nation of Israel in 1948. Statistics and reports from mission teams are never enough to stir up empathy.
I have a film for you. Actually, I have a film for everyone. Mayor is a short, family-friendly film (PG-13 equivalent) that gets to the soul of a people through the heart of a kind and wise leader.
Musa Hadid is the mayor of Ramallah (pop. 40,000), an urban center located on the West Bank of Palestine about 6 miles north of Jerusalem. It is primarily an Orthodox Christian city, with tall buildings and recognizable franchises and neighborhood coffee shops.
Mayor follows Hadid around town during the month of December 2017. We see him chatting with the people in his neighborhood, going to a number of scheduled meetings that include plans for a big Christmas celebration downtown as well as a controversy about a new city promotional sign (that most people can’t read correctly). There are also ongoing and serious problems with utilities and trash collection that are regularly exacerbated by the Israeli government and the troops that intimidate the citizens in passive-aggressive and aggressive ways.
Hadid appears to be a very good mayor who is also a goodwill ambassador for Palestine, making trips to Great Britain and the United Nations a regular part of his schedule. While the United Nations is sympathetic, he finds little common ground with the United States government, who is in the process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
There is a sustained moment of conflict that takes place about an hour into the film that provides a moment of dread, but somehow the mayor and his staff are able to wait things out and move things back to a place of homeostasis. There is some reason to believe that this is not a unique situation and that things will heat up again; that’s just how it is to live in an occupied country.
Mayor is the best kind of documentary, telling its story as a kind of parable, through observed events. An ongoing concern about a downtown attraction (which I won’t spoil here) is resolved in a way that leads to a memorable and joy-filled conclusion.
The film made me want to visit Ramallah and get to know its people better. Well done, Mayor Hadid!
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Five halos: An empathetic and kind-hearted portrayal of compassionate and patient leadership.
One pitchfork: Scenes of military occupation; some offscreen violence.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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